Cook Islands Police 'Urgently Need' Equipment, Training

Report on double-homicide indicates force must be better prepared for a similar tragedy

By Richard Moore 

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, March 22, 2017) – The official inquiry into last October’s triple shootings on Rarotonga says the police urgently need a significant injection of equipment and training to assist in avoiding a similar event.

And it would mean they would be better prepared if another tragedy was to occur.

In their report inquiry members Denis McDermott and Tevai Matapo said the events of October 18 and 19, 2016, changed the Cook Islands’ peaceful landscape in many ways.

“But none more so than the impact this tragedy had on the families, friends and the community.”

In 2015 New Zealand Police conducted a scoping project on behalf of the Cook Islands Police Service on the viability of providing an armed response capability for the Cook Islands.

“The review was comprehensive and certainly one that provided a range of avenues for consideration. It included a quantity of equipment and the necessary training requirements for such a team.”

McDermott and Matapo said: “The CIPS commissioner has forwarded a submission to the Cook Island government and without restating every aspect for consideration, it is essential that the matters raised are progressed with a degree of urgency.

“The equipment and training requirements, including negotiation training, will take time to obtain and complete.”

“Since the October tragedy the police have had donated six  ballistic vests and six protective helmets.

“They are an essential part of any police operation be it as a result of the use of Firearms, or for the Execution of Warrants, particularly where drugs are involved.

“The CIPS commissioner has commenced a change programme with the introduction of a Tactical Support Unit to deal with disturbances.

“This unit could become a part of an elite team to deal with any armed response, providing they are trained and properly equipped.”

The inquiry members said: “The Tactical Support Unit could also be deployed to assist in any prison unrest as they, providing the equipment is available, would save a considerable amount on money and avoid duplication with having to train prison wardens in the capability.”

The Review completed by New Zealand Police for the introduction of an armed response capability has in part made the following recommendations:

Purchase of rifles and pistols


Safety Equipment for each member

Secure radio communications

Two megaphones

Protective shields and other essential protective equipment

Specialist uniforms

A vehicle tracking system

Suitable land based transport – 4X4 and

Sustainable training programmes.

The inquiry said that based on the review and discussions, the TSU should consist of one inspector, two senior sergeants and eight constables.

“There is also a need for the development of skilled negotiators and, in our view, there is a need for two to be qualified.

“One of the most significant requirements for the TSU will be the ability to remain operationally effective with firearm training.

“This will require the development of a rifle range away from the community as they will need to practice and recertify on a regular basis.

“This team needs to be an elite and highly qualified group, with the ability to work together as a team in any hostile situation.”

During the November debrief following the triple shootings, the commissioner and his team identified a range of other items of equipment and processes that they need should similar Operations be required. For example:

Spotlights and torches for patrol vehicles

Secure patrol bags for maintaining equipment

Pagers in addition to mobile phones for the ease of contacting the executive

Installation of a recording system in the National Command and Control Centre for incoming phone calls

A secure locker in the commissioner’s vehicle

Telephone headsets for the NCCC;

A fully trained and dedicated media officer

A Drone for future use by the police.

The inquiry said this was not an exhaustive list, but an indication to the thought process prompted by this tragedy.

In addition a vehicle tracking system was raised as a process to assist with the location of police vehicles in emergencies. Vehicle tracking is a positive and emerging GPS system currently used by many police services across the world.

Cook Islands News
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